Several spots up for grabs in Australian playing XI: Warne

Sydney, Oct 26 (IANS) With the first cricket Test just 10 days away, leg-spin legend Shane Warne says there are at least five spots open in Australia’s XI for the series opener against New Zealand on November 5.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Australian team more open for selection for spots than right now, or not in a long, long time,” Warne was quoted as saying by on Monday.

“There’s probably five or six players who have cemented their spot in the side but I still think there’s five or six guys who could come in depending on early season form. I can’t remember coming into a Test match in Brisbane and thinking there’s only half a dozen guys are going to play, for a long, long time, probably 30 years.”

Warne believes opening batsman David Warner, captain Steven Smith, pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson and spinner Nathan Lyon are all certainties, and has also backed Western Australia’s Cameron Bancroft to make his debut at the top of the order.

That leaves the middle order, wicketkeeper and two fast bowlers to be selected, though Warne says New South Wales (NSW) Blues pair Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are the front-runners to partner Johnson in the pace attack.

While Warne believes the middle order remains the most difficult problem to solve for Rod Marsh, Darren Lehmann and the national selection panel, with Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Adam Voges, Mitchell and Shaun Marsh the prime candidates, the legend says he’d go with an alternate incumbent ‘keeper to Peter Nevill.

Nevill debuted at Lord’s in the second Test of the Ashes in July in place of Brad Haddin after the veteran withdrew from selection for family reasons. Nevill’s accomplished performance, coupled with Haddin’s poor form with the bat in the preceding 18 months, meant the tour understudy kept the gloves for the remainder of the series against England.

And despite Nevill’s solid start to a Test career four matches in its infancy, Warne would reinstate Victorian captain Matthew Wade to add some “drama” to the lower order in the same fashion as a former Hall of Fame teammate.

“I think Nevill did a wonderful job (in the Ashes),” Warne said. “Nice, tidy, didn’t make too many mistakes and started off wonderfully well. I just think of what we’ve had over the last couple of years … everyone wants an Adam Gilchrist.

“So to me, someone like a Matthew Wade, he’s a proven performer, has got Test hundreds, and gets it in a dramatic way. If he’s keeping really well at the start of the season then I’d probably go Matthew Wade. I’d give him another chance back in there.”

Warne’s eagerness to insert Wade at No.7 comes off the back of his concerns with Australia’s batting depth at the domestic level.

In the past five Sheffield Shield seasons, only two batsmen — Western Australia duo Voges and Michael Klinger — have passed 1,000 runs. A further five seasons back, five batsmen reached four figures, with recently retired opener Chris Rogers achieving the feat twice.

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